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– General John Shalikashvili
former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty

Restrictions on Iran’s Nuclear Program: Beyond 15 Years

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Volume 7, Issue 9, August 25, 2015 (Updated Aug. 26)

Experts and analysts broadly agree that the nuclear deal struck between the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) and Iran on July 14 will effectively and verifiably block Iran’s potential pathways to nuclear weapons for 15 years or more. Absent the agreement, Iran’s capacity to enrich uranium could rapidly increase and sharply reduce the time it would take Iran to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon.

Although several key restrictions on Iran’s uranium-enrichment capacity and its stockpile of enriched uranium will expire after 15 years, the deal—known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—establishes several other restrictions and tools that will help constrain and provide deep insights into Iran’s nuclear program far beyond the first 15-year period.

These restrictions include a more intrusive and permanent inspections regime that will provide the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) far greater access to and information about Iran’s nuclear program than under the current safeguards regime. Among these are continuous monitoring of Iran’s uranium mining activities and its centrifuge manufacturing sites. In addition, the JCPOA permanently prohibits Iran from conducting certain “activities which could contribute to the design and development of a nuclear explosive device.”

Taken together, these additional restrictions and transparency measures will provide the international community with a powerful set of tools to promptly detect and deter an Iranian attempt to pursue nuclear weapons well beyond the initial 15-year period.

To reinforce the JCPOA in the out-years, the United States, its P5+1 partners, and other countries in the region can and should make the most of the time provided by the JCPOA to pursue additional measures that would decrease Iran’s incentive and its justification for expanding its indigenous uranium-enrichment program and also guard against the pursuit of dangerous, dual-use nuclear fuel cycle activities by other states in the region.

This issue brief describes some of these options as well as the JCPOA restrictions that will help bound Iran’s nuclear capabilities 15 years after the implementation of the deal.

Increased Monitoring and Transparency

After 15 years a number of intrusive monitoring and verification mechanisms remain in place that will give the international community a clearer picture of Iran’s nuclear program and an early warning if Iran intends to increase its enrichment capacity.

The IAEA will be able to continuously monitor Iran’s production of centrifuges for 20 years and it will be able to continuously monitor uranium mines and mills for 25 years. Taken together, the continuous surveillance on these elements will help ensure that the IAEA and the international community will be aware of Iran’s capabilities and resources, allowing for assessment of how quickly Iran could ramp up its program and produce enough material for a nuclear weapon.

Even after these restrictions sunset, the deal puts in place a more intrusive inspections regime as compared to what Iran is currently subject to by the IAEA.

Implementation, and eventual ratification, of Iran’s additional protocol will allow for short-notice inspections at all of Iran’s nuclear facilities. Inspectors can access Iran’s declared nuclear facilities in as little as two hours if they are already on site. This is particularly important for monitoring Iran’s uranium-enrichment facilities.

The expanded nuclear declaration under Iran’s additional protocol will include more facilities than are counted under Iran’s current comprehensive safeguards agreement—such as the uranium mines and heavy-water production plant.

Iran’s additional protocol, once ratified, is permanent. Iran voluntarily implemented it between 2003-2006, but did not ratify the document. The JCPOA requires Iran to seek ratification within eight years. 

As part of the JCPOA, Iran will also implement modified Code 3.1 to its safeguards agreement. Under the terms of Code 3.1 Iran must notify the IAEA when it decides to build a nuclear facility (rather than simply six months prior to introducing nuclear material) and provide updates on the design of existing nuclear facilities. This will give the IAEA additional warning if Iran intends to expand its nuclear program, and adjust the safeguards approach accordingly. 

The IAEA's ability to request access to undeclared sites to investigate concerns about illicit nuclear activity is also permanent under Iran’s additional protocol. Without the JCPOA, which ensures ratification of Iran’s additional protocol, the IAEA will have no mechanism to request access to undeclared nuclear sites to check for illicit activities.

Under the Model Additional Protocol, if the agency has concerns about a particular site the agency will provide that country with the reasons for its concerns. The country must then respond to the IAEA’s request. If the explanation does not satisfy the IAEA, it can request access to the site. Under its additional protocol, Iran, like any other country, can take some steps to protect sensitive information if, for instance, the inspection is on a military facility. But ultimately, it is up to the IAEA to determine if the access is sufficient. 

Under the Model Additional Protocol, the agency does not have to allow a country time to respond to evidence or concern if a “delay in access would prejudice the purpose for which the access is sought.”

The IAEA can refer the case to its Board of Governors and the UN Security Council if it unsatisfied with Iran’s compliance.

Permanent Restrictions

Iran also agreed to permanent restrictions prohibiting activities relevant to developing a nuclear explosive device under the JCPOA. While Iran committed not to pursue nuclear weapons when it joined the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the JCPOA commits Iran to adhere to restrictions beyond its NPT obligations.

The NPT does not explicity prohibit research or use of explosives suitable for nuclear weapons for non-nuclear purposes. Iran has asserted that some of its past activities with possible military dimensions (PMDs) that the IAEA has been investigating were for non-nuclear weapons purposes.

Under the deal, however, Iran can no longer make this dubious claim. Iran agreed to forgo computer modeling to simulate nuclear explosive devices, testing, developing, or acquiring multi-point explosives and neutron sources, and development and designing of nuclear explosive diagnostic systems (Annex I Section T). 

While some of these activities are relevant for developing conventional explosives and for activities like drilling, in the future, if caught conducting research in these areas, Iran will not be able to claim it is undertaking any of these activities for non-nuclear purposes.

The JCPOA also closes the door on the plutonium pathway to nuclear weapons indefinitely. As part of the deal, Iran said it never intends to reprocess spent fuel, the process by which weapons-grade plutonium is removed from spent reactor fuel. Iran also said it intends to ship out all spent fuel from any future reactors. 

Decrease Incentives

The JCPOA is a strong, verifiable, agreement from a nonproliferation viewpoint, but the United States, along with its P5+1 partners and countries in the Middle East, can and should take steps to further decrease Iran’s motivation and justification to significantly ramp up its enrichment capacity after 15 years.

Fuel Supply Guarantees

Civil nuclear cooperation between certain nuclear supplier states and Iran can and should be designed to ensure that Iran has assured access to the nuclear fuel for its research and power reactors so that Tehran has less of a “practical need” to significantly expand its uranium-enrichment program beyond the capacity allowed under the JCPOA for the first 10-15 years. Pursuing this strategy would prevent Iran from justifying increased enrichment capacity based on a need to domestically produce reactor fuel to ensure continuity of supply.

Under the terms of the JCPOA, Iran will domestically fuel the Arak reactor, once the reactor is modified and Iran is able to produce fuel assemblies for the reactor. Iran’s enrichment capacity under the first 10 years of the deal, 5,060 IR-1 centrifuges, is more than enough to provide fuel for the reactor on an annual basis.

Iran claims that it wants to provide fuel for its power reactor at Bushehr, which is currently supplied by Russia. That would require the equivalent of over 100,000 IR-1 centrifuges.

Any country that enters into a contract with Iran to supply additional power reactors could provide fuel supply guarantees for the lifespan of the reactor, and arrangements to take back the spent fuel so as to deny Iran access to the unseparated plutonium in the spent fuel. Iran’s current memorandum of understanding with Russia for the provision of additional power reactors at the Bushehr site already includes this kind of arrangement.

If necessary, to provide additional assurances that there will be no fuel supply disruption, Russia could deliver to Iran enough fuel for several years at a time. Fuel could be stored under IAEA seal until it is used.

China is also currently in discussions with Iran about supplying nuclear power reactors and should be strongly encouraged to ensure that any reactor contracts include lifetime fuel supplies and spent fuel removal arrangements. This example could be employed region-wide to decrease the incentives of other countries considering nuclear power programs from pursuing enrichment.

The United States and its P5+1 partners should also work to ensure that the IAEA fuel bank, is fully funded and supplied. Kazakhstan and the IAEA will sign an agreement establishing the fuel bank on Aug. 27, 2015. The fuel bank is designed to ensure uninterrupted fuel supplies for nuclear reactors and prevent the withholding of fuel from supplier countries for political reasons. If for some reason Russia was unable or unwilling to supply Iran’s reactors, Tehran could obtain nuclear fuel from the IAEA bank.

Strengthen Regional Norms

Iran has stated in the past that it would be willing to accept permanent enrichment restrictions, such as capping enrichment levels at reactor grade (enriched to less than five percent U-235), if other countries in the region agreed to similar restrictions. A regional commitment to forgo enrichment to higher levels could serve as a major confidence building measure against further proliferation in the region. Another possible confidence building measure could be to encourage all states in the region to commit to continuous IAEA monitoring, similar to what Iran agreed to for its nuclear supply chain, on key nuclear facilities region-wide.

Another option for increasing regional confidence in the peaceful nature of Tehran’s activities would be to “multilateralize” Iran’s existing uranium-enrichment facility, providing regional oversight and nuclear fuel for countries pursuing nuclear power in the Middle East. 

Regional countries that invest in the enrichment facility would be able to have their personnel access and monitor the facilities, thus providing a greater degree of confidence that Tehran’s nuclear activities are peaceful and it could help prevent stockpiles of enriched uranium from accumulating in Iran.

Regional inspections could also provide greater transparency and assurance that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful. Brazil and Argentina, both of which pursued nuclear weapons programs and now have domestic uranium enrichment, have a bilateral inspections agreement known as the ABACC arrangement (Argentina-Brazil Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials), which augments the standard IAEA safeguards system for those states.

Despite the checkered past of both countries in nuclear weapons research, the bilateral inspections help provide assurance that neither country is currently pursuing nuclear weapons.

Conclusion

While some of the restrictions on Iran’s uranium-enrichment capacity expire after 15 years, other measures remain in place, some of which are permanent. The United States, it P5+1 partners, and countries in the region also have a number of options to strengthen the deal and dis-incentivize Iran from ramping up its uranium enrichment 15 years after implementation of the JCPOA.

If Congress rejects the deal, Iran’s nuclear program will be free of the long-term restrictions and more intrusive monitoring system mandated by the JCPOA.

On the other hand, the JCPOA provides a solid formula for blocking Iran’s ability to build nuclear weapons for at least 15 years, and the time necessary to pursue and implement complimentary initiatives to head off the possibility that Iran will try to pursue an expansion of its nuclear program over the long-term.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

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The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. 

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Absent the Iran nuclear agreement, Iran’s capacity to enrich uranium could rapidly increase and sharply reduce the time it would take Iran to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon.

Country Resources:

The P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, August 20

Iran Meets First Deadline as Debate in Washington Heats Up The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed on Aug. 15 that Iran turned over information on schedule for the agency’s investigation into the past possible military dimensions (PMDs) of Iran’s nuclear program. According to the timeline agreed to by Iran and the IAEA, Iran had to submit the information by Aug. 15. The IAEA has until Sept. 15 to ask any clarifying questions. Iran has one month to respond. The agency aims to complete its report by Dec. 15. Iran will not receive any sanctions relief until the IAEA determines it...

70-Plus Nuclear Nonproliferation Experts Announce Support for Iran Nuclear Deal

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More Than 70 Nuclear Nonproliferation Experts Announce Support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

 Iran Nuclear Deal "A Net-Plus for International Nuclear Nonproliferation"

For Immediate Release: August 18, 2015

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, 202-463-8270 ext. 107; Timothy Farnsworth, communications director, 202-463-8270 x110.

(Washington, D.C.)—More than 70 of the world's leading nuclear nonproliferation specialists issued a joint statement outlining why the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) “is a strong, long-term, and verifiable agreement that will be a net-plus for international nuclear nonproliferation efforts.”

The group of experts write in their statement that the July 14 agreement “ … advances the security interests of the P5+1 nations (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), the European Union, their allies and partners in the Middle East, and the international community."

In the statement, which is endorsed by former U.S. nuclear negotiators, former senior U.S. nonproliferation officials, a former director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a former member of the UN Panel of Experts on Iran, and leading nuclear specialists from the United States and around the globe, the experts "… urge the leaders of the P5+1 states, the European Union, and Iran to take the steps necessary to ensure timely implementation and rigorous compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.”

The statement concludes: “… we believe the JCPOA meets key nonproliferation and security objectives and see no realistic prospect for a better nuclear agreement."

The agreement, which was negotiated by the P5+1 and Iran and has been approved by the UN Security Council, will be voted on by the U.S. Congress in September. The JCPOA will establish long-term, verifiable restrictions on Iran's sensitive nuclear fuel cycle activities, many of which will last for 10 years, some for 15 years, some for 25 years, with enhanced IAEA monitoring under Iran's additional protocol agreement with the IAEA and modified code 3.1 safeguards provisions lasting indefinitely.

“This statement from more than 70 of the world’s leading nonproliferation specialists underscores, as President Barack Obama recently noted, the majority of arms control and non-proliferation experts support the P5+1 and Iran nuclear deal,” said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, which organized the nonproliferation specialists' statement.

The full text of the statement is available below. You can also download a PDF version, here.

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The Comprehensive P5+1 Nuclear Agreement With Iran:
A Net-Plus for Nonproliferation
 
Statement from Nuclear Nonproliferation Specialists
August 17, 2015

 
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is a strong, long-term, and verifiable agreement that will be a net-plus for international nuclear nonproliferation efforts. 
 
It advances the security interests of the P5+1 nations (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), the European Union, their allies and partners in the Middle East, and the international community.
 
When implemented, the JCPOA will establish long-term, verifiable restrictions on Iran's enrichment facilities and research and development, including advanced centrifuge research and deployment. Taken in combination with stringent limitations on Iran’s low-enriched uranium stockpile, these restrictions ensure that Iran’s capability to produce enough bomb-grade uranium sufficient for one weapon would be extended to approximately 12 months for a decade or more.
 
Moreover, the JCPOA will effectively eliminate Iran’s ability to produce and separate plutonium for a nuclear weapon for at least 15 years, including by permanently modifying the Arak reactor, Iran’s major potential source for weapons grade plutonium, committing Iran not to reprocess spent fuel, and shipping spent fuel out of the country.
 
The JCPOA is effectively verifiable. The agreement will put in place a multi-layered monitoring regime across Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain, including centrifuge manufacturing sites (for 20 years), uranium mining and milling (for 25 years), and continuous monitoring of a larger number of nuclear and nuclear-related sites.
 
The JCPOA requires Iran to implement and ratify the additional protocol to Iran’s comprehensive safeguards agreement, which significantly enhances the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) inspection regime. Among other measures, this will give international inspectors timely access to any Iranian facility of proliferation concern, including military sites, which the JCPOA will ensure cannot be stalled more than 24 days without serious consequences.
 
In addition, the JCPOA puts in place safeguards that require early notification of design changes or new nuclear projects by Iran (the modified code 3.1 provision). The additional protocol and code 3.1 monitoring and verification measures will remain in place indefinitely.
 
The JCPOA also requires that Iran cooperate with the IAEA to conclude its long-running investigation of Iran's past activities with possible military dimensions (PMDs) and permanently prohibits certain dual-use activities, which could contribute to the design and development of a nuclear explosive device.
 
Taken together, these rigorous limits and transparency measures will make it very likely that any future effort by Iran to pursue nuclear weapons, even a clandestine program, would be detected promptly, providing the opportunity to intervene decisively to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
 
The agreement requires that Iran undertake major steps—including to reduce its uranium enrichment capacity, modify the Arak reactor, allow for more intrusive international monitoring, and cooperate with the IAEA’s PMD investigation—before UN Security Council, U.S., and EU economic and financial sanctions are suspended or terminated, and it provides for swift consequences in the event of noncompliance.
 
If all sides comply with and faithfully implement their multi-year obligations, the agreement will reduce the risk of a destabilizing nuclear competition in a troubled region – giving time and space to address other regional problems without fear of an Iran armed with nuclear weapons—and head off a catastrophic military conflict over Iran's nuclear program.
 
Though all of us could find ways to improve the text, we believe the JCPOA meets key nonproliferation and security objectives and see no realistic prospect for a better nuclear agreement.
 
We urge the leaders of the P5+1 states, the European Union, and Iran to take the steps necessary to ensure timely implementation and rigorous compliance with the JCPOA.
 
 
Endorsed by:

Amb. Nobuyasu Abe, Commissioner of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission* and former United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, former Director-General for Arms Control and Science Affairs of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs

James Acton, Co-Director, Nuclear Policy Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace*

John Ahearne, former Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Steve Andreasen, former Director for Defense Policy and Arms Control on the National Security Council staff (1993-2001), consultant to the Nuclear Threat Initiative* 

Dr. Bruce Blair, Research Scholar, Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University

Dr. Barry Blechman, Co-Founder, Stimson Center*

Hans Blix, former Director General of the IAEA

Avis Bohlen, former Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, U.S. Department of State

Amb. (ret.) Kenneth C. Brill, Ambassador to the IAEA (2001-2004) and Founding Director of the U.S. National Counterproliferation Center (2005-2009) 

Matthew Bunn, Professor of Practice, Harvard Kennedy School, and former adviser to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Susan F. Burk, former Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation, and former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation, U.S. Department of State

Sandra Ionno Butcher, Executive Director, Pugwash Conferences on Science & World Affairs (International)*

John Carlson, Counselor, Nuclear Threat Initiative, former Director General, Australian Safeguards and Nonproliferation Office

Joseph Cirincione, President, Ploughshares Fund

Tom Z. Collina, Director of Policy, Ploughshares Fund, and former Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Institute for Science and International Security and the Director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists

Avner Cohen, Professor of Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey*

Philip E. Coyle, former Associate Director for National Security and International Affairs, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy 

Toby Dalton, Co-Director, Nuclear Policy Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace*

Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, Arms Control Association

Amb. Jayantha Dhanapala, former United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs

Amb. Sergio Duarte, former United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs

Robert J. Einhorn, former U.S. Department of State Special Advisor for Nonproliferation and Arms Control and former negotiator on the Iran nuclear talks

Dina Esfandiary, MacArthur Fellow, Centre for Science and Security Studies, Department of War Studies, Kings College London

Trevor Findlay, Senior Research Fellow, Project on Managing the Atom, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University 

Richard L. Garwin, former Chair of the Arms Control and Nonproliferation Advisory Board of the U.S Department of State

Murray Gell-Mann, recipient of the 1969 Nobel Prize in physics, Robert Andrews Millikan Professor of Theoretical Physics Emeritus at the California Institute of Technology, and Professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department of the University of New Mexico**

Ellie Geranmayeh, Policy Fellow, European Council on Foreign Relations*

Ilan Goldenberg, former Iran Team Chief, Office of the Secretary of Defense, U.S. Department of Defense

Dr. Lisbeth Gronlund, Co-Director and Senior Scientist, Global Security Program, Union of Concerned Scientists

Morton H. Halperin, former Director of Policy Planning, U.S. Department of State

Laicie Heeley, Fellow, Stimson Center*

John D. Holum, former Director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and former Principal Advisor to the President and Secretary of State on Arms Control**

Paul Ingram, Executive Director, British American Security Information Council

Raymond Jeanloz, Chair, National Academy of Sciences Committee on International Security and Arms Control*

Angela Kane, former UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs**

Togzhan Kassenova, Associate, Nuclear Policy Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace*

R. Scott Kemp, assistant professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT, former science advisor to the U.S. Department of State’s Special Advisor for Nonproliferation and Arms Control 

Duyeon Kim, Associate, Nuclear Policy Program and Asia Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace*

Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association

Michael Krepon, Co-Founder, Stimson Center* 

Ellen Laipson, President and CEO, Stimson Center*

Dr. Edward Levine, former Senior Professional Staff Member, Senate Foreign Relations Committee (1997-2011) and Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (1976-1997) 

Dr. Jeffrey Lewis, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey* and Director of East Asia Non-Proliferation Program at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies*

Jan Lodal, former Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense, U.S. Department of Defense

Jessica T. Mathews, Distinguished Fellow, former President, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace*

Fred McGoldrick, former Director of the Office of Nonproliferation and Export Policy, U.S. Department of State

Oliver Meier, Deputy Head, International Security Division, German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP)*

Dr. Zia Mian, Director of the Project on Peace and Security in South Asia at the Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University

Adam Mount, Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations*

Richard Nephew, former Principal Deputy Coordinator for Sanctions Policy at the Department of State, and Director for Iran on the National Security Staff

George Perkovich, Vice President for Studies, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace* 

Amb. Thomas R. Pickering, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Russian Federation, India, Israel, and Jordan

Steve Pifer, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution, and retired career Foreign Service officer 

Paul R. Pillar, former U.S. National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia

Valerie Plame, former covert CIA operations officer

William Potter, Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar Professor of Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey*

Tariq Rauf, former Head of Verification and Security Policy Coordination, Office reporting to the Director General, International Atomic Energy Agency, and Director of the Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Programme at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)* 

Laura Rockwood, Executive Director, Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation,* and former section head for nonproliferation and policymaking in the Office of Legal Affairs of the IAEA (1985-2013) 

Joan Rohlfing, President and Chief Operating Officer, Nuclear Threat Initiative*

Dr. Randy Rydell, former Senior Political Affairs Officer in the Office of the High Representative for Disarmament, United Nations

Scott D. Sagan, The Caroline S.G. Munro Professor of Political Science, Stanford University

Thomas Shea, former IAEA Safeguards Official, and former Head of the IAEA Trilateral Initiative Office, and former Sector Head of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Programs, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Shen Dingli, Professor and Director, Program on Arms Control and Regional Security, and Associate Dean, Institute of International Studies, Fudan University, Shanghai, China

Jacqueline Shire, former member of United Nations Panel of Experts (Iran) established under Security Council Resolution 1929 (2010)

Leonard S. Spector, Deputy Director, Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies,* and former Assistant Deputy Administrator for Arms Control and Nonproliferation at the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration

Sharon Squassoni, Senior Fellow and Director, Proliferation Prevention Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies*

Ariane M. Tabatabai, Visiting Assistant Professor in the Security Studies Program at the Georgetown University Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service*

Honorable Ellen O. Tauscher, former Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, U.S. Department of State, seven-term Member of House of Representatives, and Chairman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee (2006-2009) 

Greg Thielmann, former Director of the Strategic, Proliferation and Military Affairs Office in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research

Dr. Ali Vaez, Senior Iran Analyst, International Crisis Group 

Frank von Hippel, former Assistant Director for National Security, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Dr. James Walsh, Research Associate at the Security Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Honorable Andy Weber, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Defense Programs, U.S. Department of Defense

Larry Weiler, former Special Assistant to the Director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and a negotiator of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty

Amb. Joseph Wilson (ret.), former Special Assistant to President Bill Clinton and Senior Director at the National Security Council

Joel S. Wit, Visiting Scholar at U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS, Senior Research Fellow at Columbia University Weatherhead Institute for East Asian Studies, and former Coordinator for the U.S.-North Korea Agreed Framework (1995-1999)

Dr. David Wright, Co-Director and Senior Scientist, Global Security Program, Union of Concerned Scientists

Amb. Norman A. Wulf, U.S. Department of State (ret.), and Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation (1999-2002) 

*Institution listed for identification purposes only.
**Endorsement received after August 18 release date.

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The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

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More than 70 of the world's leading nuclear nonproliferation specialists issued a joint statement outlining why the Iran nuclear deal...

Country Resources:

The P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, August 11

Congressional Recess is Here During the first full week of the congressional recess, top administration officials continue to make the rounds explaining the nonproliferation value of the comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in New York today to discuss the deal with Thomson Reuters. Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz will join a live webcast to explain the deal on Thursday, August 13. In the last several days, a number of senators have come out in favor of the deal, including Angus King (I-Maine), Kristin Gillibrand, (D-NY), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Amy...

Appendix C: Iran-IAEA Framework 
for Cooperation

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Table of Contents

Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) signed a separate agreement on July 14, 2015 to resolve the agency’s outstanding concerns about Iran’s nuclear program and possible weaponization activities. The alleged weaponization activities are frequently referred to as the possible military dimensions, or PMDs. 

Although much of Iran’s nuclear program consists of dual-use technology that can be dedicated to civil nuclear energy and nuclear weapons use, Tehran is widely believed to have been engaged in a series of activities that can be used for the development of a nuclear warhead. U.S. intelligence estimates have long referred to these activities as evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program. 

In November 2011, the IAEA released information in an annex to its quarterly report that detailed Iran’s suspected warhead work based on intelligence it received from the United States and several other countries, as well as its own investigation.20 According to the report, Iran was engaged in an effort prior to the end of 2003 that spanned the full range of nuclear weapons development, from acquiring the raw nuclear material to working on a weapon that could eventually be delivered via a missile. 

The series of projects that made up Iran’s nuclear program, which the IAEA in its November 2011 report called “the AMAD Plan,” appears to have been overseen by senior Iranian figures who were engaged in working-level correspondence consistent with a coordinated program.21 

There are 12 main areas for investigation that the IAEA laid out in the November 2011 annex: 1) program management and structure; 2) procurement activities; 3) nuclear material acquisition; 4) nuclear components for an explosive device; 5) detonator development; 6) initiation of high explosives and associated experiments; 7) hydrodynamic experiments; 8) modeling and calculations; 9) neutron initiator; 10) conducting a test; 11) integration into a missile delivery vehicle; and 12) fusing, arming, and firing system.  

Iran has denied pursuing a warhead-development program and claims that the information on which the IAEA assessment is based is a fabrication.

On November 11, 2013, Iran and the IAEA reached an agreement outlining Tehran’s cooperation with the agency’s investigation into Iran’s past nuclear activities with possible military dimensions and to clarify the agency's unresolved concerns about Iran's nuclear program. The parties agreed on a step-by-step process to address all of the outstanding issues. Implementation of the framework proceeded on schedule, until Iran missed an August 25, 2014 deadline to provide information on two weaponization activities. Prior to that, Iran met two deadlines and provided information on 16 other areas of concern. The areas in which Iran has already provided information are as follows: 

  • Provide mutually agreed relevant information and managed access to the Gchine mine in Bandar Abbas.
  • Provide mutually agreed relevant information and managed access to the Heavy Water Production Plant.
  • Provide information on all new research reactors.
  • Provide information with regard to the identification of 16 sites designated for the construction of nuclear power plants.
  • Provide clarification of the announcement made by Iran regarding additional enrichment facilities.
  • Provide further clarification of the announcement made by Iran with respect to laser enrichment technology.
  • Provide mutually agreed relevant information and managed access to the Saghand mine in Yazd.
  • Provide mutually agreed relevant information and managed access to the Ardakan concentration plant.
  • Submit an updated Design Information Questionnaire for the IR-40 reactor (heavy-water reactor at Arak).
  • Take steps to agree with the IAEA on the conclusion of a Safeguards Approach for the IR-40 reactor.
  • Provide mutually agreed relevant information and arrange for a technical visit to Lashkar Ab’ad Laser Centre.
  • Provide information on source material that has not reached the composition and purity suitable for fuel fabrication or for being isotopically enriched, including imports of such material and on Iran’s extraction of uranium from phosphates.
  • Provide information and explanations for the IAEA to assess Iran’s stated need or application for the development of exploding bridge wire detonators.
  • Provide mutually agreed information and arrange a technical visit to a centrifuge research and development center.
  • Provide mutually agreed information and managed access to centrifuge assembly workshops, centrifuge rotor production workshops, and storage facilities.
  • Conclude the safeguards approach for the IR-40 reactor.

As of July 14, 2015, these were the unresolved Issues from the IAEA-Iran framework of November 2013:

  • Exchange information with the IAEA with respect to the allegations related to the initiation of high explosives, including the conduct of large-scale high-explosives experimentation in Iran.
  • Provide mutually agreed relevant information and explanations related to studies made and papers published in Iran in relation to neutron transport and associated modeling and calculations and their alleged application to compressed materials.

As part of a July 14 IAEA-Iran “roadmap” agreement developed in conjunction with JCPOA, Iran agreed to provide the IAEA with information on all areas of concern by August 15, 2015. 

The agency will have until September 15 to ask any additional follow-up questions. Iran will then have until October 15 to provide the additional answers. The IAEA will then issue an assessment of the material by December 15. Iran must provide all of the information required by the IAEA before the JPCOA can be implemented. This ensures that Iran will not receive any sanctions relief until the IAEA receives the information it needs to resolve the outstanding PMD concerns. 

The following is the text of the July 14 IAEA-Iran agreement:

Joint Statement by the IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano and the Vice-President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, President of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano and the Vice-President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, President of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi agreed on 14 July 2015 the following “roadmap” for the clarification of past and present outstanding issues regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Islamic Republic of Iran (Iran) agree, in continuation of their cooperation under the Framework for Cooperation, to accelerate and strengthen their cooperation and dialogue aimed at the resolution, by the end of 2015, of all past and present outstanding issues that have not already been resolved by the IAEA and Iran.

In this context, Iran and the Agency agreed on the following:

1. The IAEA and Iran agreed on a separate arrangement that would allow them to address the remaining outstanding issues, as set out in the annex of the 2011 Director’s General report (GOV/2011/65). Activities undertaken and the outcomes achieved to date by Iran and the IAEA regarding some of the issues will be reflected in the process.

2. Iran will provide, by 15 August 2015, its explanations in writing and related documents to the IAEA, on issues contained in the separate arrangement mentioned in paragraph 1.

3. After receiving Iran’s written explanations and related documents, the IAEA will review this information by 15 September 2015, and will submit to Iran questions on any possible ambiguities regarding such information.

4. After the IAEA has submitted to Iran questions on any possible ambiguities regarding such information, technical-expert meetings, technical measures, as agreed in a separate arrangement, and discussions will be organized in Tehran to remove such ambiguities.

5. Iran and the IAEA agreed on another separate arrangement regarding the issue of Parchin.

6. All activities, as set out above, will be completed by 15 October 2015, aimed at resolving all past and present outstanding issues, as set out in the annex of the 2011 Director General’s report (GOV/2011/65).

7. The Director General will provide regular updates to the Board of Governors on the implementation of this “roadmap.”

8. By 15 December 2015, the Director General will provide, for action by the Board of Governors, the final assessment on the resolution of all past and present outstanding issues, as set out in the annex of the 2011 Director General’s report (GOV/2011/65). A wrap up technical meeting between Iran and the Agency will be organized before the issuance of the report.

9. Iran stated that it will present, in writing, its comprehensive assessment to the IAEA on the report by the Director General.

10. In accordance with the Framework for Cooperation, the Agency will continue to take into account Iran’s security concerns.


20. IAEA Board of Governors, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and Relevant Provisions of Security Council Resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” GOV/2011/65, November 8, 2011 (hereinafter IAEA 2011 Iran report). 

21.  Ibid. 

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Why Schumer Is 'Technically' Wrong About the Iran Deal

On Thursday, Aug. 6, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) came out against the negotiated nuclear agreement between the United States, other world powers, and Iran. If implemented, the deal will block Iran’s pathways to nuclear weapons for well over a decade and put in place more intrusive monitoring to guard against covert activity permanently. In his statement, Schumer said he would vote in favor of a resolution disapproving the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), that was negotiated on July 14. In an Aug. 6 post, Schumer explained his decision, which he said came...

Appendix D: Understanding Breakout Calculations

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As the U.S. intelligence community has consistently noted since 2007, Iran has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity to produce nuclear weapons if it chooses to do so. The U.S. intelligence community has also assessed that if Iran were to make a decision to build nuclear weapons, it is more likely that it would seek to do so by means of undeclared, secret facilities, a scenario sometimes called a “sneak-out.”

Thus, the realistic goal of the P5+1 for the final deal was not to make breakout impossible but to make it a more difficult and unattractive policy option for Iran.

The JCPOA accomplishes this core goal by putting in place restrictions on its uranium-enrichment capacity, the level of uranium enrichment, its uranium stockpile, and research and development in a way that lengthens the time it would take for Iran to amass enough bomb-grade nuclear material to no less then 12 months for more than a decade, by eliminating its ability to produce and separate plutonium for at least 15 years, and by putting in place stringent monitoring and verification mechanisms to quickly detect and deter any attempt to pursue a covert program.

The JCPOA will limit Iran’s installed centrifuges to 6,104 IR-1 centrifuges, of which 5,060 will be used to enrich uranium for 10 years. This, combined with the 300-kilogram limit on Iran’s stockpile of 3.5 percent enriched uranium gas, increases the time it would take Iran to accumulate enough material for one bomb to more than a year, if such an effort were not detected.

Other restrictions limit Iran’s breakout potential through the uranium route. For 15 years, Iran’s low-enriched uranium stockpile cannot exceed 300 kg. Agreed limits on Iran’s deployment of advanced centrifuge machines in years 11-13 of the JCPOA will ensure that its overall enrichment capacity remains the same. Given other reporting requirements and monitoring of Iran’s centrifuge program through year 20 of the agreement, Tehran will not have the ability to quickly ramp up its enrichment capacity without prompt detection.

It is important to remember that the milestone being measured in this definition of “breakout” is the accumulation of enough uranium hexafluoride gas for one bomb, not the bomb’s actual construction or initial operating capability. Although the production of fissile material is arguably the most resource intensive and difficult step toward building nuclear weapons, there are several additional technical hurdles, including designing and constructing an explosive device and integrating it into a delivery system (most likely a ballistic missile) so it would reliably detonate.

Iran would need to convert the material into powder form, fabricate the metallic core of the weapon from the powder, assemble other weapons components that had been previously developed or acquired on an independent track, and integrate the weapons package into a delivery vehicle.

This process could be more easily hidden, but it would require several months or longer.

States developing nuclear weapons typically conduct multiple, large-scale nuclear test explosions to perfect their warhead designs, particularly the smaller, lighter, and more efficient designs needed for missiles.

With existing U.S. national means of intelligence and the International Monitoring System established to verify compliance with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, any Iranian test would very likely be detected. If Iran were to try to “sneak out” to build nuclear weapons, Tehran would have to accept a lower confidence level concerning its warhead design or risk detection.

Iran is very unlikely to break out of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to acquire only one nuclear weapon.

Even if Iran were willing to tolerate the large uncertainties deriving from an untested nuclear weapons design, a single weapon would add additional uncertainties regarding missile performance and the ability of the warhead to penetrate the sophisticated missile defenses deployed in the region. Tehran would be staking everything on the perfect performance of one untested system. It is highly improbable that Iran would plan to break out of the NPT by building only one nuclear weapon. Calculating timelines based on a one-device scenario therefore compounds the misimpression already left by using a breakout definition that falls short of actually building a weapon.

However, if Tehran were to choose to increase the odds of success by planning to build multiple weapons, it would increase the need for fissile material, thus lengthening the breakout timelines and increasing the chances of international detection and blocking actions.

The robust inspection regime in the JCPOA would include increased reporting requirements for Iran on its nuclear activities and grant the right of timely, on-site inspections at undeclared sites to the International Atomic Energy Agency. While designed to detect clandestine enrichment activities, such a regime will also significantly enhance the collection of information relevant to the identification of post-enrichment activities that could be targeted to disrupt a weapons program.

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Solving the Iranian Nuclear Puzzle: The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

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The P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, July 30

U.S. Officials go to Congress, European Officials to Tehran As administration officials continue to make the case to members of Congress of the benefits of a nuclear deal with Iran, European officials were in Tehran this week to discuss implementation of the comprehensive agreement and other elements of cooperation. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini visited Tehran on Tuesday, July 28. Mogherini told press after a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif that the purpose of her visit was to “to start the concrete work on the implementation of the deal.” Mogherini...

Addressing Iran’s Ballistic Missiles in the JCPOA and UNSC Resolution

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Volume 7, Issue 8, July 27, 2015

For more than a decade, the possibility of Iran developing nuclear warheads for its medium-range ballistic missiles has been at the top of U.S. security worries for the region, followed by Iran’s potential to expand the range of its missile forces to threaten Europe and the United States.

Now, with the conclusion of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)between the P5+1 and Iran, which will block Iran from building nuclear weapons for at least 15 years, along with a new UN Security Council resolution (2231) on the nuclear deal, which extends restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile activities and trade, the potential threat from Iranian ballistic missiles has been radically reduced.

Negotiations Were About Nuclear Warheads, Not About Missiles

In the long negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 countries (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), the parties had avoided contentious issues beyond the nuclear realm in the belief that resolving the nuclear imbroglio was the highest international security priority and including other issues could overload the agenda and jeopardize reaching any agreement.

Senior U.S. officials stressed the talks were focused exclusively on resolving concerns about Iran’s growing nuclear program—not, for example, on its support for terrorism, behavior in the region, or human rights practices.

However, among the restrictions established by six UN Security Council resolutionsin response to Iran’s sensitive nuclear activities are restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile activities relating to the delivery of a nuclear weapon and restrictions on heavy conventional arms transfers to Iran.

UN Security Council Resolution 1737, passed in December 2006, states that countries must not provide technical or financial assistance, training, or resources related to certain nuclear and ballistic missile-related goods, and that all member states must refrain from importing designated nuclear and ballistic missile-related items from Iran.

UN Security Council Resolution 1929, passed in June 2010, establishes a comprehensive arms embargo on Iran, banning the sale of “battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, large caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles or missile systems” to Iran.  Iran is also prohibited from undertaking any activity related to ballistic missiles, and the resolution requires states to take necessary measures to prevent technology relevant to ballistic missiles from reaching Iran. 

The primary purpose of these resolutions was to restrict Iran’s sensitive nuclear activity until such time as negotiations could resume and lead to an agreement preventing Iran from building nuclear weapons.

Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman had assured Congress during her early testimony on the negotiations that Iran’s ballistic missiles would be addressed, but she did not specify how this would occur.

Iran’s position was that the negotiations were about its nuclear program and not about its ballistic missiles or conventional military capabilities; a replacement resolution in response to an agreement on the nuclear issues should therefore not maintain any restrictions on its ballistic missile activities and acquisition of conventional arms. The Russians and Chinese were in support of Iran’s view.

Even U.S. Secretary of State Kerry acknowledged in response to a question at his July 14 press conference that “[UNSC Resolution 1929] says specifically that if Iran comes to negotiate – not even get a deal, but comes to negotiate – sanctions would be lifted.”

Missile Restrictions and Heavy Weapons Embargo Extended

Despite the Russian, Chinese and Iranian opposition, U.S. negotiators dug in their heels. Although not explicitly addressed in the JCPOA, UN Security Council Resolution 2231, unanimously adopted on July 20, contains an eight-year restriction on Iranian (nuclear-capable) ballistic missile activities and a five-year ban on conventional arms transfers to Iran.

Specifically, Annex B of the new resolution calls upon Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.” The resolution also grants the Security Council the authority to review and deny on a case-by-case basis any transfer to Iran of materials, equipment, goods, or technology that could contribute to nuclear weapons delivery systems.

Moreover, even after restrictions on arms sales and ballistic missile activities are lifted under the new resolution, they would still be subject to re-imposition “in the event of significant non-performance by Iran of its JCPOA commitments…”

These features of the arrangement have not gone over well in Tehran. According to the official statement from Tehran, issued in response to the resolution, “Iranian military capabilities, including ballistic missiles, are exclusively for legitimate defense. They have not been designed for WMD capability, and are thus outside the purview or competence of the Security Council resolution and its annexes.” A prominent Iranian hardliner complained, “The negotiating team was not supposed to negotiate on Iran’s ballistic missile technology.”

Despite the U.S. negotiators’ success in retaining features of the earlier resolution’s constraints on ballistic missiles and conventional arms, U.S. critics of the JCPOA either entirely ignore the UN’s adoption of a new multi-year arms trade embargo and its continuing restrictions on Iranian (nuclear-capable) ballistic missile activities or they complain that these restrictions are not permanent.

A Much Lower Threat From Iran’s Ballistic Missiles

There are many potential hurdles to implementation of the JCPOA; surviving U.S. Congressional scrutiny over the next sixty days is the most imminent. But it is important to consider how carrying out the nuclear deal is likely to affect Iran’s potential ballistic missile capabilities during the coming decade.

First and foremost, the comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran will block Iran’s pathways to nuclear weapons, thus ensuring that Iran cannot develop a nuclear warhead capable of being delivered via ballistic missile. This renders Iran's ballistic missiles a far less of a threat to regional and international security.

Second, even without the nuclear weapons constraints in the JCPOA, the reality of Iran’s ballistic missile program has never quite lived up to its reputation. Iran never developed or flight-tested a long-range ballistic missile; it has never even asserted a need to build one. This professed disinterest stands in contrast to Tehran’s boastful posture with regard to many other home-grown weapons programs and its explicit justification for medium-range missiles as a deterrence against Israeli attack.

In fact, after developing a modest inventory of relatively inaccurate medium-range ballistic missiles, Iran seems to have put most of its recent energies into improving the performance of shorter-range missile systems, more relevant to Iran’s immediate neighborhood around the Persian Gulf. No medium-range missiles have flown since 2012; even the long-awaited Simorgh space-launch vehicle, with technology relevant to a longer-range ballistic missile, has yet to appear. Although “death to America” may still be heard during Friday prayers in Tehran, neither the nuclear warhead nor the delivery vehicle for administering such a blow is being built.

Now, with both the JCPOA’s impediments to pursuing nuclear weapons and the new UN Security Council resolution extending restrictions on nuclear-capable ballistic missile activity and missile trade years into the future, the potential magnitude of the Iranian ballistic missile threat has been significantly reduced. —Greg Thielmann

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The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. 

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For more than a decade, the possibility of Iran developing nuclear warheads for its medium-range ballistic missiles has been at the top of U.S. security worries for the region...

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